Schuster: from enfant terrible to Real Madrid coach

By Joerg Obergethmann, IANS

Hamburg : Bernd Schuster was a gifted playmaker whose long stride and flowing blond hair recalled Guenter Netzer, the German midfielder of a generation before. Yet in his home country he remained a controversial figure throughout his playing days.

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The player nicknamed the "Blond Angel" in Germany has now reached the pinnacle of his sporting achievements by being named coach of Real Madrid, the Spanish team for which he played in the late 1980s.

It was in Spain that Schuster has enjoyed the most successful years of his playing career after leaving Cologne in 1980.

Legendary German coach Hennes Weisweiler was influential in Schuster's early development, but a greater and often controversial influence later proved to be his manager and wife, Gaby.

After his Bundesliga debut at the age of 18 in 1978 and national team debut a year later, Schuster was a revelation in midfield for winners West Germany at the European Championships in 1980.

After the tournament he left Cologne for Spain and Barcelona where he spent eight successful years before moving in dispute to Real Madrid and, after two years, to cross-city rivals Atletico Madrid.

His 13 years in Spain brought him three Spanish championships and six cup victories before he moved back to Germany for three seasons at Bayer Leverkusen.

Schuster's coaching career had until now been less glamorous, with spells at Cologne in the German second division, the Ukrainian club Shakhtar Donetsk and smaller Spanish teams such as Deportivo Xerex, UD Levante and Getafe.

Internationally, as a player, it was a tale of what might have been. He missed the 1982 World Cup in Spain through injury and after a dispute with then coach Jupp Derwall he quit the international football scene in 1984 after just 21 appearances for Germany.

In 1986, Derwall's successor Franz Beckenbauer tried unsuccessfully to persuade Schuster to return for the 1986 World Cup.

Schuster's skills on the ball were as superb as his relations with team coaches, team-mates and officials were often difficult.

He left the Bundesliga in 1980 after differences with Cologne and his final appearance as a player in Germany – with Bayer Leverkusen – did nothing to contradict the "enfant terrible" reputation by also ending in a conflict with the management.

However, Schuster's coaching methods have strengthened the high regard felt for him in Spain. He guided Getafe, a club from the outskirts of Madrid who had never been in the Primera Liga before 2004, to consecutive ninth-placed finishes in La Liga and to a first final of the King's Cup where they lost to Sevilla.

Now Real bosses, who not only want to win trophies but win them in style, are hoping the Schuster flair will rub off on their team.